PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Residents of Mir Ali, the key town in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, say at least 40 people died in army shelling there on December 19.
Locals told RFE/RL by phone on December 20 that the shelling, now stopped, destroyed most shops in the bazaar and prevented people from taking wounded to the hospital.
The residents' reports of civilian deaths come as the Pakistani military said its military operation in the region killed 33 people, all militants.
The army said fighting began late on December 18, when a convoy was attacked en route to a checkpoint, then expanded to target a militant hideout in Mir Ali.
Some 300 people, mostly students from North Waziristan, protested in the northwestern city of Peshawar on December 20 against the military operation and what they said was the targeting of civilians.
With reporting by AP